Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Citizen's guide to lobbying the legislature

With the state legislature going into session for sixty days starting today, we'd like offer you some tips on how to effectively lobby your legislators on the issues that matter most to you.

First, remember that this is a short session, with a compressed timetable to get legislation passed or to keep it from passing. Go to the Legislative Information Center on the first floor of the LEG Building (the Capitol) and pick up schedules of committee hearings and other legislative meetings each day.

Call to schedule an appointment with a legislator early in the session. Make an appointment with the senator or representatives that represent your district or the chair of the committee that your proposed legislation or issue you care about is assigned to. These legislators are the most likely to meet with you. Don't try to meet with every legislator as they are all busy meeting their constituents or attending committee meetings. Besides, your legislator is elected by you and you are their constituent. Meet with both your Senator and your representatives (there are two per legislative district), since all legislation has to pass both legislative bodies and be signed into law by the governor.

When you meet with a legislator remember that their time is limited and valuable. Most only schedule appointments in 15 minute blocks during session. Be concise, to-the-point and leave some time for the legislator to ask questions. If you bring handouts, make sure you have copies for the legislator and any staff who might be present. If you bring a multi-page handout, be sure to attach a bullet-point summary to it. During session, legislators and staff don't have time to read dozens of pages of a manifesto on any given subject.

With the dire budget situation, do not expect to get legislation passed this year if it requires funding. It's important to note that most legislation of consequence does not pass the legislature in one year. Sure, there are exceptions, but the majority of legislation is a multi-year effort.

Also, always remain polite and respectful of the position your legislator holds, even if you don't agree with them. Legislators are human beings like the rest of us, and don't take too kindly to being berated or rude behavior.

Finally, it's a good idea to follow-up your meeting with a thank you note or an e-mail.


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